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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Work of the Institute

Early in 1920 the nucleus staff under the directorship of Professor T. H. (later Sir Thomas) Easterfield was appointed and projects were planned. The work of the Institute was organised in three science departments, dealing respectively with insect pests, fungus diseases, and agricultural chemical problems. In addition a technical museum was established. In 1941 the Agricultural and Chemistry Department was subdivided into soils and agriculture on the one hand and biochemistry on the other. There was no further change in organisation until 1956, when because of the transfer of some of Cawthron's activities to Government Departments, it was decided to concentrate the Institute's research activities on plant nutrition, including soil problems. Opportunity was taken at this stage in the history of the Institute to reorganise the museum with a view to the more effective illustration of the agricultural and mineral resources of the Nelson district.

The work of the Institute over the past 40 years has been marked by many striking successes. In the early period, the introduction of Aphelinus mail to combat woolly aphis of apple trees, the elucidation of the life history of the black spot fungus of apples, the determination of the fertiliser requirements of the Moutere Hills and of other soils, and the identification of the major causes of apple storage defects were of great value not only to the apple industry of Nelson but to fruit culture throughout New Zealand. These splendid results roused the interest of farmers in every part of New Zealand and stimulated the prosecution of research by Government Departments.

Among the many important investigations carried out by the Institute during the past 40 years may be mentioned the establishment of systematic soil surveys; the identification of a sheep ailment at Glenhope, Nelson, and of a lamb ailment at Morton Mains, Southland, as cobalt deficiencies; the identification of boron deficiency in several crops in the Nelson district; the determination of boron contents of soils and crops in important fruitgrowing districts in both North and South Islands; the identification of magnesium deficiency in apple orchards of the Nelson district and the elaboration of control techniques; the chemistry of tobacco, hops, and fruit; the control of “hard core” and “cloud” of tomatoes; the parasitic control of insect pests, e.g., control of woolly aphis by Aphelinus mail; golden oak scale by Haberolepsis dalmani and the horntail borer by Rhyssa persuasoria; the biological control of noxious weeds, e.g., Apion ulicis for the control of gorse seed and Chrysolina hyperici for the control of St. John's Wort; and the identification and control of many fungus diseases attacking fruit, tobacco, hops, and market-garden crops in the Nelson district. All the investigations enumerated above have been of great value to the development of the agricultural industries of Nelson and of New Zealand.

During the 40 years since the establishment of the Institute there have been four directors: Sir Thomas H. Easterfield, 1919–33; Sir T. Rigg(q.v.), 1934–56; Dr D. Miller, 1956–59, and the present director, Dr C. R. Barnicoat. The Institute has benefited from the services of a number of outstanding officers among whom may be mentioned Dr R. J. Tillyard, assistant director and chief biologist; Dr K. M. Curtis, chief mycologist; Dr H. O. Askew, assistant director and chief biochemist; Dr J. K. Dixon, soil chemist; Dr E. B. Kidson, soil and plant chemist; and W. C. Davies, curator and photographer. During the 40 years of work some 550 scientific papers, bulletins, and monographs have been published by members of the staff. In addition, many progress reports and newspaper articles have been written for the general public. The achievements of the Institute have not depended solely on the results of scientific research. Of almost equal importance has been the great influence, particularly in the early years, of the Institute on farmers and the general public throughout New Zealand.

The success of the Institute stimulated scientific research both in Government and in farming circles and has brought about an enhanced appreciation of scientific research by the general public.

by Theodore Rigg, K.B.E., M.A.(CANTAB.), M.SC.(N.Z.), F.R.I.C., F.R.S.N.Z., HON.D.SC.(W. AUST. AND N.Z.), formerly Director, Cawthron Institute, Nelson.